October 1st, 2019

My day begins with a quick look at my calendar, responding to emails, getting my 6-year-old daughter ready for her school, and family breakfast. My commute to the lab consists of a half hour Staten Island ferry ride to Manhattan that includes beautiful views of the Statue of Liberty and the East river. This also gives me time to reflect on my ongoing research work, and catch up with news..

My lab activity begins with planning the experimental studies of the day with my collaborators and mentees, and following up on the ongoing lab studies after putting on my favorite safety goggles and “fancy bioengineer” lab coat to kick-start the activities of the day.

My major research focus is creating protein engineered materials or “biomaterials” to serve as carrier for drugs to be delivered to treat diseases.  In one of the morning lab sessions, one of my team members and I were imaging the biomaterials using a microscope to explore its ability to bind drugs. We surprisingly observed a dramatic release of drug while illuminating the protein with white light. While we initially found this observation confusing, we later concluded that visible light can be used to trigger the release of our drug from the biomaterial. It has opened up a new avenue in our research biomaterials with the ability to respond to light.


I also like to read recent publications in a couple of leading bioengineering journals, preferably during morning hours to stimulate the thought process and bring in ideas for my own research. As science can be exhilarating and a number of times surprising, data analysis and rationale-based experimental approach is the key to understanding bioengineered proteins. This involves close collaboration and engaging in scientific discussion with my principal investigator, team members, and collaborators. I love the highly collaborative research environment; it gives me the opportunity to work and learn from my fellow researchers with diverse scientific backgrounds. I also enjoy teaching and working every day with my highly motivated team of high school, undergraduate and graduate students.  Being surrounded everyday with groundbreaking science and passion to develop new solutions is what drives me as a bioengineering researcher.


Along with the lab research work, I usually find some time to communicate and network with my colleagues that keep me informed on the exciting research being done by my peers, which can help me provide new perspective to my own research. In one particular instance, I was facing an analytical challenge for several weeks that had stymied my progress. Even after experimenting with many different technical approaches, I kept facing the same issue and each failing attempt led to an increased level of frustration. I discussed the problem with lab members during a coffee break, and one of the colleagues, who interestingly had faced a similar research obstacle, shared an alternate analytical approach that amazingly solved the challenge I was facing. While I found this incident to be serendipitous, this illustrates the power of scientific network and frequent communications with our peers in order to push science forward.



Before wrapping up for the day, I discuss with my team members to plan future experiments, reserve shared instruments and prepare for the experiments to be performed on the following day. I do a final check to make sure that all the instruments are properly shut down and various samples and chemicals are stored properly. Finally, I wind-down my exciting day in the lab by cleaning my work bench and head home to spend time with my daughter and husband.


Kamia Punia

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